I know I am ill - so why do I feel guilty?

1st November 1996 at 00:00
It's not normal to wake up, shower and immediately return to bed feeling exhausted. Nor is it normal to stagger like a drunk to the local shop to buy a loaf of bread.

I am clearly ill. My doctor has signed a certificate to this effect. Yet, why is it I feel like a fraud for not going into school?

Guilt, of course. We're all guilty of it. Guilt for letting down my students; guilt for letting down my colleagues; and guilt for not battling on, as so many others do. Guilt for giving in.

Well I, for one, am not seeking a medal in martrydom. Nor am I seeking to do penance in school (although it does sometimes feel like it). I am ill. Pure and simple. And I want to suffer at home without feeling guilty about it!

I telephoned the headteacher to explain, but she left me blubbering like a baby. I didn't feel that she really believed me. Could she hear my guilt down the telephone? Did she realise that if I were truly committed (to a psychiatric hospital?) then I would stagger in regardless. Was she thinking about her budget? Oh no, more guilt.

Part of my guilt stems from the fact that I became ill half way through the autumn term. Illness is somehow more acceptable later in the year, when everyone is tired.

Surely, I could have lasted until after half term? (Of course, had I been truly dedicated to my job, I would have had the virus during the half-term break. ) Taking time off seems to suggest a lack of commitment. But the reality is, it's bound to happen. Everyone gets ill sometimes especially in this stressful job.

A commitment to our own health is important, too. Illness is often your body's way of saying, "Stop". Ignore that at your peril.

As for me, I'm trying hard to accept that I am just a human being. Yes, I do get ill occasionally; and no, I'm not going to apologise and feel guilty about it - if that's okay with everyone else.

The writer is a female teacher who has just spent a fortnight off sick with a viral illness

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